Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone: When the Giant Trips, by James Pinell.
Yesterday’s announcement by Samsung that it was ceasing production of the Note 7 finally put to rest one of the most extraordinary months in the technology behemoth’s history.
From the moment its phones began exploding in users’ hands, pockets and bedside tables, Samsung began falling over itself to contain the problem but rather found itself making the same mistakes it did during the development of that very device.
The Note 7 was one of the most important devices Samsung had ever made. The culmination of the design advances it had made over the past few iterations of both the Note and Galaxy ranges, plus a refining of its industrial design to compete not only with Apple but a number of burgeoning Chinese manufacturers. There was a beautiful screen, hefty internals, a retooled stylus, a solid (and thin) fully aluminium build and, of course, a chunky 3500mAh battery.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung was utterly desperate to release its phone before the iPhone 7 Plus, and set very strict deadlines for suppliers to produce prototypes and complete testing. It knew, like many people, that Apple’s latest iteration wouldn’t be especially impressive, so it wanted to produce a device that would blow it out of the water. Incredible screen, screaming fast, Iris scanning, and battery for days. It also had to be thinner, sleeker, and dedicate more of the front facing panel to display.
If anyone was able to do it, it was Samsung. The S6 and S7 were fantastic hardware and arguably two of the best models of their generation. The Note 7 continued this trend – packing even more than any other device into the same tiny frame. The finished product was sleek and attractive, with a pen that didn’t brick the phone, waterproofing, fast charging and every single other feature you would require. It received almost universal acclaim across the industry, popular YouTuber MKBHD even called it “The best Android phone ever made”.
But there was a small problem.
Batteries produced by Samsung SDI Co, 20% owned by Samsung themselves, were catching fire. Internally, Samsung’s various divisions were pointing fingers – was it the battery design, or the phone itself? The reality was likely that, considering SSDI makes batteries for a host of other devices, that the phone simply had too much packed into such a small space that the battery was being pinched by the small space it was stuffed into. This pinch pushed positive and negative poles within the cells together, causing the device to generate excessive heat and thus, eventually, flames.
Read it all for a well-written saga of tech gone wrong.